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Thursday, February 24, 2005

Social and writing skills of scientists; more

A widespread misconception is that great scientists tend to be loners. Actually, outstanding success in most areas of science requires outstanding social skills, as illustrated by Mayr's relationships with a wide variety of people. He achieved such good understanding with New Guinea and Solomon tribespeople in the 1920s that they not only led him in and out of areas where other Europeans feared being killed, but they also taught him their local names for birds and brought him hundreds of specimens of bird species missed by other European collectors. He once explained to me that a secret of living happily past age 90, after most friends of the same generation have died, is the continued willingness to forge friendships with younger people.

- Jared Diamond, "Obituary: Ernst Mayr (1904-2005)" Nature 433:700-701, February 17, 2005. Quote is from p. 701. Mayr was born July 5, 1904, and died February 3, 2005, and was one of the two or three most important philosophers of biology at the time of his death. He is considered to be the chief architect of the current concept of species. Mayr's last book, What Makes Biology Unique? was published in 2004.

"Watson himself regards his writing, which could not have been done by anyone else, as an even greater achievement than his work on DNA that led to a Nobel prize." Lewis Wolpert, "Watson's way with words," review of The Writing Life of James D. Watson, by Errol C. Friedberg, Nature, 433:686-687, Feb 17, 2005. Quote is from p. 687. Watson wrote The Double Helix, a popular account of the Watson-Crick discovery, which made the best-seller lists, and was made into a movie. He also has written influential textbooks, which is probably what is being referred to in the quote above. He is still alive, and, I believe, active. Crick passed away last year.

The sources for the items above are not freely available on the Internet.

Nature News reports that a galaxy with no visible stars in it has been discovered. The claim is that this is a "dark matter" galaxy.

Nature News also reports that termites use sound to select their next meal:

"It seems that these insects choose what to eat according to the way each piece of wood vibrates in response to their gnashing jaws."

The article goes on to point out that humans also use sound in food selection. Not as much, I'm sure.

1 comment:

Brandy said...

I confess, Dr. LaBar, that I have never used sound to decide what I'm going to eat. :)